Critics Slam Biden’s Childcare Focus Amid Declining Birthrate Concerns


Last week, the Biden White House acknowledged America’s record-low and still-declining birthrate. However, the analysis and prescription provided seemed mismatched, aligning more with the White House’s ideological leanings.

President Joe Biden’s Council of Economic Advisers addressed the declining birthrate, prescribing increased day care, more federal subsidies for it, and encouraging more mothers of young children to work outside the home.

For the past 16 years, the number of children born each year has decreased, with the birthrate now at a record low of 1.62 children per woman. The country’s working-age population has stagnated and is expected to decline, while the number of retirees grows, leading to an increasing “old-age-dependency ratio.” The White House concurs that this trend will negatively impact the economy, with more consumers and fewer producers.

Nonetheless, the White House reassures that “growth in labor force participation and labor productivity can be countervailing forces that mitigate the impact of an aging population.”

While this is accurate, the White House’s focus on labor force participation among mothers of young children misses the broader issue, which is declining participation among middle-aged individuals.

The White House asserts, “Accessing dependent care is an example of one particularly severe constraint to labor force participation,” and discusses at length the need for universal day care.

However, the emphasis on mothers overlooks the actual trend, as clarified by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco: “While [labor force participation] for women overall has declined since 2019, the entire decline comes from the 55 and older age group, with almost no change in trend for women of prime working age, 25–54.”

Women already make up 49.9% of all workers in America. Why should the policy aim to ensure more women are working than men?

The liberal Vox recently reported that there’s no crisis of mothers leaving the workforce: “Larger shares of moms of both preschool and school-age children working now than at any time in history. Most labor market gains have been driven by moms with young kids under 5, with roughly 70 percent of them employed in some capacity.”

The White House suggests a severe shortage of childcare, but as Vox pointed out: “Jobs in the child care sector … have continued to expand, with more people working in the sector as of April than at any time on record.”

The Biden team’s evidence of a childcare shortage appears weak: “The Center for American Progress estimates that 50 percent of families live in child care deserts: areas that do not have sufficient childcare supply to meet demand.”

The partisan CAP’s concept of “childcare deserts” includes places with thriving families, many marriages, numerous children, stay-at-home mothers, extended families, and strong communities. For instance, the suburbs of Salt Lake City illustrate this well.

Ultimately, mothers in America don’t desire day care as much as the Biden White House assumes. The CEA is concerned that labor-force participation rates “among mothers of young children have historically lagged behind that of mothers with older children and women in general.”

This suggests the Biden White House’s economists see the issue as being that some mothers prefer to stay at home.

Timothy P. Carney
Timothy P. Carney
Timothy P. Carney is a senior political columnist and a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. He is the author of Family Unfriendly: How Our Culture Made Raising Kids Much Harder Than It Needs to Be, Alienated America: Why Some Places Thrive While Others Collapse, The Big Ripoff, and Obamanomics.

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